Comp Lit 215: The Baroque: Genealogy and Topography

Instructor: Professor Timothy Hampton

Baroque culture is the first instance in the West of a “global” cultural movement. It also offers the first example of an artistic moment that is truly interdisciplinary. In this seminar we will study the emergence and development of Baroque literature and thought, beginning at the end of the sixteenth century, from Rome to Mexico. Our approach will have two aspects. On the one hand, we will want to identify and study certain key features of Baroque culture, across languages, continents, and media, working out, as it were, a kind of topography of culture and politics. We will focus on such themes as the theatricalization of power, the role of allegory, the question of a Baroque “style,” imperial and urban experience, and the intersection of arts and disciplines. At the same time, however, we will be interested in the curious history of the “Baroque” in modern critical thought, from the appearance of the term in Art Historical writing at the end of the 19th century (Wöfflin, Burkhardt), through the various nationalist Baroques of the mid-twentieth, the neo-Baroque of certain post-War novelists (Carpentier, Simon), to the critical redemption of Baroque culture for our own moment by the work of Walter Benjamin and Gilles Deleuze.

Among the authors to be studied will be such figures as Shakespeare, Montaigne, Corneille, Galileo, Cervantes, Donne, Caravaggio, Calderón, Tasso, Sor Juana, Pascal, Rubens, Hobbes, Góngora, Bernini, and Gracián.

  • Elective Requirement: This course fulfills the Critical Approaches and Methodology requirement for the DE in REMS. It may also count as an elective.